No person in Australian racing has more family history or a vested interest in races like The Everest and the Melbourne Cup than James Cummings and the Godolphin head trainer believes both races “complement each other” on the racing calendar.
Racing NSW supremo Peter V’landys has never hidden the fact he sold The Everest as a disruptive event but four years on it’s brought much to the table – just like the Melbourne Cup and it’s 159 years of history.
“I don’t think either race does any harm to the other,” Cummings said.
“I feel that The Everest has this excitement, this sharpness, it’s Australian owned, a colonial product at weight-for-age, the best of the best that we have to offer coming together.
“It generates discussion and interest but the Melbourne Cup hasn’t lost it’s lustre.
“I’ll give you a snapshot of my experiences as a young boy. Breezing through the living room with Bart (Cummings) yelling at us to shut the door on the way out, there aren’t photo frames of sprint races up on his wall.
“There are photo frames of his Melbourne Cups and his Caulfield Cups.
“The people that are interested in The Everest are watching Cup day and those going to the Cup are keeping their eyes on The Everest.
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“Racing now has the audience totally engaged from October and maybe even earlier.
“There are only two races that I’ve ever been involved in during my career so far, and the record will show I haven’t had one loom up in the Caulfield Cup, but The Everest and the Melbourne Cup are the only two races where I have been fiercely moved by the experience without winning.
“The elation I felt when Precedence ran home strongly to run sixth in my first Melbourne Cup and running third in The Everest with Osborne Bulls was more than most of my Group One wins.
“No other race has made me feel like these two races did. They are something else.”
For Cummings, who has twice placed third in The Everest with Osborne Bulls in 2018 and Trekking last year, The Everest has done more for the Australian racing industry than anyone would have believed when the race was announced on February 1, 2017.
“The Everest will be a game-changer for racing in Sydney and provide a stage for showcasing the best Australian sprinters against leading international contenders,” Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding said at the launch.
“It hasn’t had long to test the market but what the race has achieved has surpassed expectations and is assisting the Australian breeding landscape to further shape our breeding industry,” Cummings said.
“How can I justify that?
“The fact that Exceedance won Victoria’s single most important three-year-old sprint (Coolmore Stud Stakes), one of the two most important three-year-old sprint races in the country, and he goes to stud (Vinery) with a set fee ($38,500 inc GST) in an environment where stallion fees are under pressure and concurrently a non-Group One-winning colt (Yes Yes Yes) from the same vintage won The Everest and joined the roster from a competing farm (Coolmore) with exactly the same fee.
“That tells me this race is already helping to shape the breed.
“There is no set narrative to The Everest. The race has a longer and broader narrative than every other race and it’s so engaging.
“The race changes every year and I think that’s what sets it apart. It’s the intrigue that is one of the successful ingredients.
“I think that’s what’s proven to be a real hit with the racing audience.
“We talk about a lot of good races every week as a team at Godolphin but there’s no race that takes up as much time to discuss and evaluate as much as The Everest.
“Who played it well? Who declared their hand too soon? How does that all play out in the aftermath?”
“The Everest has moved the goalposts. The race is about pure competition — not about pattern — it’s about competition and breeders know competition.
“The Everest so far has been competition in the purest form because the fields have largely been made up of the best of the best.”
Cummings works for one of the world’s biggest racing and breeding empires. Godolphin chose not to secure a slot when they first offered back in 2017 but Sheikh Mohammed’s operation had a change of heart within two years of the race’s first running.
“There’s plenty of international talk about the race, there’s no doubt on account of that there’s going to be eyeballs on the screen watching The Everest,” Cummings said.
“We have two representatives that can do our team proud.
“I know from our local team. We’re pumped up to be a part of it, we’re grateful to have two runners in great health. For us it is a big deal.”
The famous Godolphin blue will be carried by the operation’s dual Group 1-winning sprinters Bivouac and Trekking.
Prior to the barrier draw Bivouac was considered the top seed, after all he runs for the Godolphin slot, but barrier 10 wasn’t ideal for the stallion’s prospects.
Bivouac will be ridden by last year’s The Everest-winning jockey Glen Boss.
“It’s not for me to convince people why they should support Bivouac in the race but you are talking about a horse that last year beat The Everest winner in the Golden Rose at set weights and in the Run To The Rose, their only two clashes at three,” Cummings said.
“Then in the autumn he becomes a three-year-old colt for Godolphin to win a Newmarket running away.
“Think of the horses that finished behind him that day – Gytrash, Loving Gaby, Libertini, Exceedance, Tofane, Zoutori and I think The Inevitable. Quite a few good horses and he just streeted them on a good track over six furlongs.
“His biggest strength is his speed. His gate speed, his cruising speed and his acceleration. He’s fast, the horse is just fast.
“As his trainer, everything I see from the horse is fast. He’s got X-factor.
“I don’t play favourites with the horses I train but let’s put it this way, horses like Hartnell will forever have a special place in your heart but horses like Bivouac are an investment of about 20 years into our future.
“His sons and daughters could win us Golden Slippers in the future.”
The barrier draw was kinder to Trekking – barrier 4 is his starting point and he will be ridden by Josh Parr, who partnered the gelding into his third placing in the race last year.
“He’s the street fighter in the race,” Cummings said. “He gets down and gets dirty.
“A well-travelled horse that has claimed some big scalps along the way.
“He beat Gytrash in the Goodwood the last time either horse raced at six furlongs and Behemoth got four kilos off them that day and he was back in fourth.
“Last year he wins a week out at Caulfield, travels up the Hume Highway, gets a bridle thrown on him seven days later and runs third in the world’s richest sprint.
“This time he comes into it off a second placing in the Moir with three weeks between runs. This time you we’ve had more time to directly prepare him for what lies ahead.
“He’s just flying.
“Some might say he’s not a headline horse but he’s made headlines when he’s won both his Group Ones and there’s not many in this race that has a score over him.
“I’m sure he is going to do his slot owners Max Whitby, Neil Werrett, Steve McCann and Colin Madden proud. He’ll give them a great sight.”
Trekking is a $17 chance at TAB.com.au while Bivouac has eased from $13 prior to the barrier draw to his current $18 quote.